Sunday, March 5, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Winter Series Race #6

Race: Race #6 in the CGT Winter Time Trial series.

Date it happened: 5 March 2017.

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page.

Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Distance: Approximately 6 km / 3.7 miles. The course goes downriver, around a buoy, back upriver to the start, then downriver and back a second time.

Conditions: It was sunny and the temperature was nice, but there was a strong, gusty wind from the East that made it extra challenging to paddle upriver. The water level was also low and getting lower as the tide went out, which made it important to stay in the deeper channels of the river.

Participants and Gear: There was a good crew of 14 racers, including 8 men and 6 women. Murray Hunkin did the race on his narrow "Assassin" K1 Olympic race style kayak. I don't know how he balances in that thing. Penny Kappler also did the race on a kayak, but it was a wider recreational kayak. Besides Penny, all the women were on 12'6 SUPs: Cindy Gibson, Jen Hayes, Donna Catron, and Damien Lin on Hovie SUPs, and Saralane Harrer [without her dog this time] on a Riviera sup. The men were split between 12'6 and 14' SUPs. Mark Nicoletti was on a 12'6 Boga, Robert Norman on CGT's 12'6x24.5 Starboard AllStar, me on a 14x23 Riviera RP, John Weinberg on a 14x25 Riviera RP, and Bill Mussenden on a 14x26 Naish Javelin. Justin DiGiorgio and Mark Athanacio were both on brand new custom 14x23 Hovie sups. Justin's is a pure flatwater model with a very pointy nose, lots of volume, and a flat (not recessed) standing area. Mark's is the "Comet GTO" model designed with a concave hull and a rounder, upturned nose for stable and smooth handling in rough water and ocean racing. It wasn't the optimal board for the flat water river, but Mark was using the race to help analyze the speed and trade-offs of the design.

Results: Murray Hunkin was the first finisher by a mile, with 34:06 on his K1 kayak. I was the first SUP with 38:45. Mark Athanacio got 40:16, Robert Norman 42:17 (first 12'6), and Justin DiGiorgio 42:54. Cindy Gibson was the first woman with 44:36, followed by Damien Lin 50:17, and Jen Hayes 51:26. Official results may be posted at some point on the CGT Time Trials page.

Play by play: I was more careful than usual about my workout schedule in the week leading up to this race. I rested Sunday, did strength training Monday, hard paddle workouts Tuesday and Wednesday, strength training Thursday, and a less intense paddle workout Friday. Saturday I meant to rest, but I had to windsurf because it was windy. Nevertheless, I felt that not having done any hard working out since Wednesday had given me good recovery time, and I was ready to push hard today. At the start line there weren't many people I expected to draft with, since Murray was on a Kayak, Matt Kearney was working his ceramics booth at the Bonita Art fest, and Mark Athanacio was late. Robert Norman and Justin DiGiorgio were possible draftees, though, so we lined up together in the first starting wave, along with Cindy Gibson. I sprinted hard off the line and I'm honestly not sure what exactly happened behind me. I think Justin and Robert drafted for a while, or at least kept up closely, because I heard splashing.

On the downriver leg, which was also the downwind leg, I tried to let the wind push me, standing up a little straighter than usual and trying to be in the windiest part of the channel. About 2/3 of the way down, Murray flew past me in his kayak. I briefly felt a boost from his side-wake, but there's no way I could have drafted him because his boat was so much faster than my board. After rounding the downriver buoy (and nearly falling as I was nervous about the shallow water), I saw that Robert and Justin were close together and not too far behind me. I think they were trading off drafting. Heading upriver/upwind I kept low and bent over with my head down, and I stayed in the lee of the mangrove shoreline when possible. When I couldn't avoid a bad headwind, I tried to sprint to get it over with.

With 1200 meters left in the first lap I acquired a draftee, Mark Athanacio, who burst out of the side-canal he lives on at just the right moment to get behind me and catch a ride up to the start line. I didn't intentionally change my paddling when he got back there, but it did remind me not to slow down. Also, I speculated that paddling at race pace for 1200 m, even with the aid of drafting me, might tire Athanacio out enough to be at a slight disadvantage when he started his race, especially if he didn't rest long first. When I did my buoy turn at the end of the first lap, Athanacio turned into the shore, so I knew he was at least going to get a short break before starting his race.

In the second lap I tried do a sprint start and maintain a speed and effort level comparable to what I'd done on the first, but since I didn't have my Speedcoach GPS I don't know how well I managed that. After I rounded the downriver buoy for the second time I knew Athanacio was charging hard, because he was the first person I encountered (before Robert and Justin). In the final part of the upwind; the last 400 meters, I tried to really dig in and hurt as much as I could stand to finish fast. I was happy with my time, given the conditions.

What else is new: It was interesting trying out other people's boards at this race. The 12'6x24.5 Starboard AllStar that Robert was on felt stable and efficient for a 12'6. It had an interesting way of keeping its nose level in the water even as the aft section of the board porpoised with each paddle stroke, helping maintain a consistent waterline and a steady pace. Justin's flatwater special Hovie had fantastic glide and cut through the water silently, but was a bit tippy as the knife-like nose would sometimes want to "catch" and magnify the rider's side-to-side bobbles. I think the stability was also affected by the extreme amount of volume (thickness) in the board, which put the rider standing higher above the water in a more precarious position. Making the board an inch thinner, and maybe cutting still more out of a recess in the standing area, might reduce that tendency.

In contrast, Mark Athanacio's Hovie GTO (salmon colored) was extremely stable and forgiving for its width, but had somewhat less "glide" between strokes. When we did dueling sprints in practice on Tuesday we were evenly matched with me on my Riviera, even when we switched boards, so I think the GTO can hold its own as a flatwater board despite being optimal in rougher water.

On Saturday I'm planning to go to my first big out of town race this year, the Cocoa Beach Challenge.

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